PANEL DISCUSSION: THE "SOLO PRACTITIONER": PRO SE LITIGANTS AND THEIR OBSTACLES TO JUSTICE: SLICING THROUGH THE GREAT LEGAL GORDIAN KNOT: WAYS TO ASSIST PRO SE LITIGANTS IN THEIR QUEST FOR JUSTICE Skip over navigation
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Fordham Law Review

PANEL DISCUSSION: THE "SOLO PRACTITIONER": PRO SE LITIGANTS AND THEIR OBSTACLES TO JUSTICE: SLICING THROUGH THE GREAT LEGAL GORDIAN KNOT: WAYS TO ASSIST PRO SE LITIGANTS IN THEIR QUEST FOR JUSTICE

December, 2011

Fordham Law Review

80 Fordham L. Rev. 1229

Author

Shon R. Hopwood*

Excerpt



In Greek mythology, the Gordian Knot was a large intertwined rope that was impossible to untie. The knot was the work of Gordius, a king in what is now Turkey. Legend has it that King Gordius fastened his chariot to a pole using the Gordian Knot. Then Alexander the Great arrived and attempted to unravel it. Anyone who has ever tried to unpack the box of last year's Christmas lights can appreciate what Alexander was up against. He tried, unsuccessfully, and became frustrated at his inability to undo what could not be undone. So he finally opened the Gordian Knot by cutting through it with his sword. Alexander's solution to the problem led to the idiom "cutting the Gordian Knot," which simply means solving a complicated problem through bold action. 1

The problems facing pro se litigants are as daunting as the famed Gordian Knot. Imagine trying to unravel the law without knowing where the ends of the knot begin. Or for that matter, imagine trying to plead your case without the benefit of a legal education. This was the quandary that confronted me.

From 1998 to 2008, I was incarcerated in a federal prison - the result of five bank robberies I committed as a foolish young adult. While in prison, I was fortunate to receive a job in the prison law library. There, I sat reading novels until June of 2000, when the Supreme Court handed down Apprendi v. New Jersey, 2 a case ...
 
 
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